The Law School Authority

U.S. v. Carroll Towing Co. Case Brief

Summary of U.S. v. Carroll Towing Co., U.S. Ct. App. 1947

Facts: The Anna C was owned by the Conner Co. and had been chartered to the Pennsylvania RR Co. which had loaded it with flour belonging to the U.S.  The charter required Conner to provide a bargee (operator/attendant) between 8-4.  A the servants of a tug working for Carroll Towing shifted the mooring lines which caused the Anna C to break free from the pier.  She then drifted and the propeller of a tanker broke a hole in her bottom and she sank.  The flour was lost as a result.

Issue: Whether the absence of the bargee on board, without a reasonable excuse, caused negligent loss of the U.S. Gov’t property?

Holding: Yes

Procedure: Libel in admiralty suit.  Trial ct divided damages according to admiralty rule, finding Conners partly responsible by not having a custodian aboard the barge.  Affirmed.

Rule: When the Burden of adequate precautions is less than the gravity of the injury multiplied by the probability of the resulting injury it is deemed unreasonable. The owner’s duty is to provide reasonable care, under ordinary circumstances, by a standard of care exercised by a reasonable and prudent person.

Ct. Rationale: The likelihood that a barge will break free varies with time and place.  The bargee must go ashore at times, there is no requirement that he remain onboard at all times.  The bargee left at 5 p.m. the afternoon before the incident.  The next day at around 2 p.m. the bargee was still missing with no excuse for his absence entered as evidence.  The place of the occurrence, during the time of year (jan) and with the full tide of war left barges constantly entering and exiting.  It was not beyond reasonable expectation that, with the inevitable haste, work might not be done with adequate care.  The bargee under these conditions should have been onboard.

PL A: The Barge could have been kept afloat and her cargo saved if the bargee were onboard at the time.

Def A: The bargee’s absence was reasonable.  He was entitled to have a day off once a week.

Locus in quo – The place in which.

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